Salman: simmering bundle of contradictions
Salman Khan is a simmering bundle of contradictions.
By Subhash K Jha, IANS
There's the Salman who kept me awake till 3 a.m. with his rather strange antics when I met him for the first time.
Then there's the other Salman who went down from my hotel room at that unearthly hour to counsel Abhishek Bachchan on matters of the heart. At the end of the conversation, he took off his Rolex and gave it to Abhishek as a friendship band.
Extremely generous, Salman turns livid when provoked and pushed into a corner.
He narrated an incident to me when at a crowded restaurant some men began heckling him by calling him unflattering names like "Sallu" and "Pansy". Salman tried to ignore them as long as he could. Then he blew up.
That's exactly what Salman is expected to do.
Most of the time he doesn't disappoint his fans. I remember when I was at a restaurant with Salman (the same one where he had been heckled) when he suddenly began banging on the toilet door.
Everyone in the restaurant just stopped eating, drinking and dancing, and stared, waiting for the inevitable fight.
Fortunately, Zayed Khan emerged from behind the door. When he saw the man who was creating the ruckus, he embraced Salman like a long-lost buddy.
Salman is essentially a child who needs to be noticed constantly. All the time he unconsciously ends up doing things that attract attention. Most of the time he doesn't realize where his attention-seeking behaviour takes him.
It could be to Aishwarya Rai's doorstep, where at the time of their friendship, he pounded his hands to a bloody pulp when she refused to let him in.
Salman has to go where he wants, even if a "no entry" board stares him frostily in his chiselled face. He will ignore every warning sign and head first for the place he's most unwanted.
When in an exemplary display of dignity, Aishwariya opted out of the relationship, Salman continued to pound at her door...in a manner of speaking.
Though she has long moved on, Salman hasn't really gotten over the lady of his dreams.
Among close friends he continues to relive their golden moments together, over and over again. Until the friends know every incident in Salman's head and heart, by heart.
More than a film actor Salman sees himself as a rock star. He loves to be on stage while thousands of fans cheer him on. During that moment his most intimate infantile fantasy - of the child who climbs the parapet to get Mom to come running - is fully realised.
At home he's a wonderful son, not just to his biological mother but also to Helen aunty, the woman his father married. The Khans run a very liberal household. Islam, Hinduism and Christianity have a free passage. It's a large open house where unexpected guests are always expected.
Unlike the two other Khan superstars who haven't known proper parental guidance (Shah Rukh Khan lost both his parents at a young age and Aamir Khan can't see eye-to-eye with his father), Salman's familial background is as normal as it gets.
Contradicting this, however, the rebellious streak shows up in his behaviour all the time.
Whether on screen or off it, Salman opts for the maximum-attention mode of functioning. If he's known to get physically aggressive with his directors (Satish Kaushik and Puneet Isaar who worked on his last two films will ouch...sorry vouch for this), he's also known to go out of his way to accommodate filmmakers.
Shah Rukh was supposed to play Bachchan's son in Ravi Chopra's "Baghban". When he backed out because of his back problem, Salman sportingly stepped in.
And now he's doing two more films with Chopra, both co-starring the Bachchan who says: "Salman is God's child. Very misunderstood, but he has a heart of gold. Like Sanju (Dutt), Salman has a penchant for getting into trouble. But he means well, and is extremely kind-hearted."
Revathi, in whose ready-for-release "Phir Milenge" Salman plays a supporting role to Shilpa Shetty, will also vouch for the kind heart. Salman not only agreed to play a supporting role, but also refused to charge any money from Revathi who was his co-star in one of his earliest films "Love".
So will the real Salman please stand up? Is he a terrible infant or a restless child with a heart of gold?
Salman often says and does things that he doesn't mean. His naked aversion to the press doesn't add to his popularity.
But ask Salman if he cares. He would rather be a rock star than a rock steady movie star with "proper" press and values to match.
"The press didn't make my career. So how can they unmake me," reasons the focussed, totally clued-in cool and newly power-packed Salman.
He's totally into his career right now. The success of "Garv" has given Salman a wider mass appeal and the confidence to take on the box office at the most grassroots level.
But the question is, can he stay out of crises?